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COVID-19 hospitalizations rising, ICUs filling up amid winter weather

By Daniel Uria and Allen Cone
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COVID-19 hospitalizations rising, ICUs filling up amid winter weather
The Martin Luther King Hospital emergency entrance is a hub of activity on Wednesday, January 27, 2021. The population served by MLK is largely Latino and Black, both communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Many residents live in dense, multi-generational housing, work essential jobs and suffer from secondary health conditions due to a lifelong, systemic lack of access to quality primary care. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise in parts of the United States as winter weather sets in and the Omicron variant continues to spread.

U.S. hospitalizations have risen 23% in the past 14 days to a daily average of 65,277 as of Saturday while new cases have risen by 40% for a daily average of 119,325 within the same timeframe, according to federal data gathered by The New York Times.

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The Great Lakes and Northeast regions of the United States have experienced the greatest rise in cases amid the winter surge as there have been 49,921,405 COVID-19 cases and 797,346 deaths related to the virus reported nationwide since the start of the pandemic, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

In New Hampshire cases are rising by a daily average of 1,269, up 27% over 14 days, placing a strain on the state's hospital system.

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The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday said only 2.6% of staffed adult ICU beds are available statewide with no ICU beds available in the southwestern part of the state as well as the North Country and Upper Valley regions.

COVID-19 hospitalizations increased 10% in Pennsylvania in the past week as of Friday and available adult ICU beds fell to 13.5%, while available pediatric ICU beds have dropped to 7.7%.

Pennsylvania has the most patients hospitalized with coronavirus at 4,927, which is 16.28% of capacity, Ohio is second at 4,891 or 15.97% of capacity and Michigan third at 4,695 or 20.67%, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through Sunday.

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WellSpan Health, which operates six acute care facilities in south-central Pennsylvania, has been approaching 400 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in recent days and its hospitals have been operating at 110% to 140% occupancy, Dr. Michael Seim, chief quality officer and senior vice president of WellSpan Health, told ABC News.

About 66% of New Hampshire's population is fully vaccinated, and Koren Superchi, vice president of patient care services at Littleton Regional Healthcare said 89% of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. In Pennsylvania, about 58% of the population is fully vaccinated, and WellSpan said 90% of its patients are unvaccinated.

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Nationwide 72% of the population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 60.8% is fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among those fully vaccinated, 26.6% have received an additional booster dose.

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The Senate on Wednesday approved a measure nullifying President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers but New York City on Monday announced a "first-in-the-nation measure" requiring private-sector employees to get vaccinated against the virus by Dec. 27.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the mandates on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, noting that the vaccination rate in the city has risen from 57% to 71% since he first announced vaccine requirements for patrons of certain indoor businesses in August.

"I'll tell you what I hear from our business community, that their greatest fear is shutdowns," de Blasio said. "Their greatest fear is going back to where we were in 2020, to restrictions, to people losing their livelihood."

The CDC reported 43 infections from the Omicron variant throughout 22 states during the first eight days of December in its first report on the variant Friday.

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Among those cases, one person was hospitalized and no deaths were reported.

"The most commonly reported symptoms were cough, fatigue and congestion or runny nose," the CDC said. "One vaccinated patient was hospitalized for two days and no deaths have been reported to date. Case investigations have identified exposures associated with international and domestic travel, large public events and household transmission."

The World Health Organization designated Omicron as a "variant of concern" last month after it was identified by scientists in South Africa, where it has become the dominant strain.

To date, around 99% of U.S. infections continue to stem from the Delta variant, according to the CDC.

California has the most deaths at 74,509 and cases at 4,867,604. Texas is second with 73,400 deaths and 4,372,008 followed by Florida at 62,026 deaths and 3,713,214. Those states have relatively fewer hospitalizations than northern states despite having the third largest populations: California at 3,847, Texas at 3,622 and Florida at 1,393.

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